Simanaitis Says

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TEGEL HAS BEEN a hunting ground for the pleasure of Prussian nobles. It was home for Nazi rocket scientists. The  airport played an important humanitarian role in the Berlin Airlift in the late 1940s. In use until 2020, the Tegel site then sat unoccupied. But not for long. 

As described by Rebekah Brandes in Nice News, October 14, 2022: “Berlin, Germany, is transforming a disused airport into an über-modern, green metropolis.”

The 1235-acre Tegel site is in Reinickendorf, five miles northwest of Berlin’s city center. Image by Aufwind-Luftbilder/iStock in Nice News, October 14, 2022.

Background. According to Wikipedia, Tegel’s aviation history “dates back to the early 20th century, when the Royal Prussian Airship battalion was based there and the area became known as Luftschiffhafen Reinickendorf.”

Following World War I, the Treaty of Versailles prohibited  Germany from having any armed aircraft. Wikipedia notes, “On 27 September 1930, Rudolf Nebel launched an experimental rocket testing and research facility on the site. It became known as Raketenschießplatz Tegel and attracted a small group of eminent aerospace engineers, which included German rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun. In 1937, the rocket pioneers left Tegel in favour of the secret Peenemünde army research centre.”

In the Berlin Airlift, June 26, 1948, to May 16, 1949, the U.S., Britain, and France countered the Soviet’s blockade of Berlin by using three of the divided city’s airports to supply foodstuffs and coal. Tempelhof was in the American Sector; Gatow, in the British Sector, and Tegel, in the French Sector. 

An American aircraft brings supplies into Tempelhof during the Berlin Airlift. See also Onkel WackenFügel.”

France at the time was knee-deep in its Indochina quandary, but Tegel supported American and British flights as well.

Berlin-Tegel airport in 2014. Image by MBPROJEKT_Maciej_Bledowski/iStock in Nice News, October 14, 2022.  

More recently, Berlin Tegel Otto Lilienthal Airport handled more than 60 percent of the city’s airline passengers in 2019. It was renowned for its hexagonal main terminal building which made walking distances as short as 100 ft. from aircraft to the terminal exit. 

Eco Tegel. This walking theme is at the heart of Tegel Projekt, also referred to as Berlin TXL, which has two main components: the Urban Tech Republic and the Schumacher Quartier.

Rebekah Brandes writes, “The Urban Tech Republic will serve as a hub for innovative research and production, with around 1000 businesses, 20,000 employees, and even a college campus. Over 2500 students are expected to live in the former airport terminal building as they study at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences (Berliner Hochschule für Technik University).”

Brandes continues, “The residential portion, Schumacher Quartier, is one of Berlin’s answers to the need for more affordable, sustainable housing. It will be home to 5000 apartments and will boast shopping centers, daycares, schools, and vegetation. With an emphasis on renewable energy and environmentally friendly transportation, the car-free area will promote cycling and walking over driving. Electric buses and a tramway are planned for a future stage of development, Euronews reports.”

Design and Use.  Brandes says, “The very fabric of the community itself will also be eco-friendly. Buildings will be made with at least 50% wood, which absorbs carbon dioxide and is a renewable resource. Vertical gardens will provide aesthetically pleasing greenery, known to boost morale in urban areas, while helping cut down on air conditioning energy expenditure. Solar panels will be placed on every rooftop, and “sponge city” technology — such as permeable pavement and rain gardens — will absorb water to help keep the city cool and mitigate potential flooding damage.”

“In addition,” Brandes reports, “a sprawling nature reserve and protection area will cover almost half of the development’s acreage. Experts have identified 14 species, including birds, mammals, and insects, that they hope to create habitats for in the residential district.” 

Constanze Doll of the Tegel Projekt says, “We want to let people rediscover the public space, for socializing, playgrounds, places to relax and talk. The Schumacher Quartier is planned in such a way that the streets and squares belong to the people again, rather than to cars.”

Tegel enhances its heritage as a site of humanitarian efforts. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 

3 comments on “TEGEL GOES ECO

  1. Bob Storck
    October 23, 2022

    Another good reason to mistrust Wikipedia. Their ‘popular version of history’ is often slanted, incomplete, or just plain wrong.
    The Tegel area’s aviation ties dated much earlier in the aero history timeline, with Otto Lilienthal for whom the airport is co-named, doing his flight research in those Eastern soon-to-be suburbs. In the early 1890s, he flew gliders at Rhinow, later near Stölln and Lilienthal built an artificial conical hill near Lichterfelde. All are near the Tegel lakes (used for seaplane cargo shuttles during the Berlin Airlift) and the Tegel airport which now bears his name.
    Lilienthal’s hill still stands as a memorial.

  2. Mike B
    October 23, 2022

    That short walk out of the terminal reminds me of why I like BUR for trips into the LA area, rather than LAX. Plus, the train station across the street that gets me downtown in 20 minutes.

    • Bob Storck
      October 23, 2022

      I’ve been a diehard environmentalist all my life: farm family; Boy Scouts; sailboats and sailplanes; sub 1 liter, 40mpg cars, etc. Although, as your battery element recycling concerns post indicates, a lot of the Green Movement has been: “fire … ready … aim!”
      You raise another threat that could come with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If they cut off supply lines again, and a Berlin Style Airlift would be needed to survive a blockade in the future, how is electricity going to be delivered?
      … in burlap bags or 55 gal. drums?

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